"Three years ago, when Lakeway resident Lance Mitchell launched his website, SpeedTrapAhead.org, he didn't hide his intentions. "Not a lot of people flash their lights to warn others nowadays," he wrote. "But, I DO! And when I see a speed trap, I go back up the road a bit, and stand on the sidewalk, wearing my SpeedTrapAhead T-shirt."
Early on April 22, 2009, Mitchell spotted a Lakeway police cruiser set up inside a school zone with a radar gun. He set up his warning station up-road, pointing enthusiastically at his speedtrapahead.org shirt whenever a driver passed. His truck, which also sported a decal of the website address, was parked nearby.
According to Mitchell's video account of the event, a black police cruiser soon arrives.... the group approaches Mitchell; an officer asks for his ID. When he hands over a card with his name, address and birth date, Debrow demands his driver's license. As Mitchell begins to explain how, technically, that is not legally required as he was not driving, Debrow abruptly orders Mitchell handcuffed and placed under arrest.
During the 13 hours he was detained, Mitchell eventually was informed he was being charged with violating Lakeway's sign ordinance by displaying a sign on his shirt and a speedtrapahead.org decal on his truck.
[Judge] Madison found Mitchell not guilty on all counts. Madison continued: "I don't think the intent of the city is to outlaw the wearing of a T-shirt. If we outlaw T-shirts, what happens next? If you have a tattoo on your body, does that become a sign?"
A month after the trial, Mitchell filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Lakeway, Debrow, the code enforcement officer and Almaguer complaining that he "was arrested, jailed and prosecuted ... and deprived of his First Amendment rights merely because he wore a shirt and sported a decal on his truck with a message that reads speedtrapahead.org."
Last month, both sides reached a confidential settlement. "I don't have to worry about working for four or five months," said Mitchell, who is currently unemployed. He also said he's ready to get back to warning Lakeway drivers to slow down.
I was once ticketed by police for flashing my lights to warn other drivers but when I wrote in and complained, they decided that no offence had been committed. You have to stand up for your rights -- always politely, of course.